Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 1


  1.  The Chinese imperial system came to an end in 1911, when the Qing (Manchu) dynasty was overthrown and China was proclaimed a republic, partly through the efforts of revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen. The country then entered a period of warlordism until in 1927 the Nationalist Party or "Kuomintang" (KMT), under its leader Chiang Kai-shek, established a central government in Nanjing. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921 but broke with the KMT and was forced to flee into the interior in the Long March in 1934-35. Both KMT and CCP forces opposed Japan during World War Two but a civil war broke out from 1945-49. CCP forces under Mao Zedong routed their KMT opponents and in 1949 Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China. KMT elements fled to the island of Taiwan.

  2.  The period between 1949 and Mao's death in 1976 was characterised by an ambitious political and economic restructuring programme which involved the collectivisation of industry, the establishment of communes and the redistribution of land. The Cultural Revolution from 1966-76 brought enormous upheaval in the political system and Mao had to rely on the armed forces to maintain order and exercise control.

  3.  In December 1978 the CCP, inspired by Deng Xiaoping, launched a wide-ranging programme of economic and social reform which sought to modernise the economy, develop China's external relations (the "open door policy")—especially with the West, and implement a gradual and limited liberalisation of Chinese society.

  4.  Political opposition to the more liberal reforms forced periods of retrenchment and in June 1989, following the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, political control swung firmly into the hands of conservative elements within the CCP. The Chinese Government labelled the demonstrations a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and clamped down on dissent. Prominent dissidents fled the country or went into hiding. Many activists were arrested. Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was replaced by Jiang Zemin, former Mayor and later Party Secretary of Shanghai. Jiang was appointed to the additional post of State President in March 1993. Since then, the Party leadership has continued the economic reform programme, while also seeking to improve China's standing in the international community. Jiang retired as President in March 2003 and was replaced by Vice-President Hu Jintao.

  5.  In March 2005 the transition to a new generation leadership was completed when Jiang Zemin retired from the Chairmanship of the State Central Military Commission (CMC). Hu Jintao (already State President and Party General Secretary) became the new Chairman of the State CMC. Premier Wen Jiabao took office in March 2003, at the same time as Wu Bangguo became Chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. The leadership announced they would continue to follow established policy priorities of economic growth, internal stability and steadily opening up to the world.

  6.  Nonetheless, there is an increased focus on the social impact of economic reform. Their policies seek to address growing wealth and regional disparities, accelerate reform of the rural sector (still home to 65% of China's population) and combat corruption. China is experiencing a growing amount of social unrest due to a lack of social security, government corruption and the increasing income gap between rich and poor. The new leadership has placed greater emphasis on effective administration and has encouraged greater accountability in the Party. In 2005 the main themes of the NPC annual session were an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan and policies on the need to "forestall and deal properly with mass disturbances".

  7.  In October 2005 the Party Plenum meeting chaired by President Hu approved the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10). This guiding document sets out the Governments broad policy aims of maintaining China's stable rate of economic growth while speeding up structural adjustments to the economy. The plan also emphasises the Government's commitments to protecting the environment, encouraging innovation, achieving social justice, harmonising inequalities in the pace of regional development and achieving a better balance between industry and agriculture.

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Prepared 13 August 2006